" If they sign the pier permit, they give up all rights against the town.
" Rich Hahn
On July 8, a claim was filed against the town of Minocqua by attorneys Elizabeth Stephens and Charles “Buck” Sweeney on behalf of East Chicago Avenue residents Teresa and Rich Hahn. 
Attached to the claim was a circumstances of claim, a document which follows the events following the town board’s adoption of an ordinance which was introduced at the end of March that would allow the town to “regulate the placement of piers and related structures in or extending from town rights-of-way” parallel to homeowners on East Chicago Avenue, East Park Avenue and West Park Avenue.
Because homeowners on those streets have historically placed piers and related structures on bordering land and in the abutting waters of Lake Minocqua, a part of the crux of the issue is it’s been unclear as to if it was a homeowner’s right to do so, given it went unchecked for so long.
According to town chairman Mark Hartzheim, previous town boards had chosen not to take any action on the matter because of the legal murkiness which came with it.
Town officials have contended, though, residents placing piers and related structures couldn’t be ignored any longer because of some residents “overstepping their bounds.” 
At first, the town claimed it owned the land abutting the waters of Lake Minocqua, but those claims were put to rest as the matter grew more contentious and additional research was done. The town — with its legal team of attorneys Gregg Harrold and Larry Konopacki — still claimed its right to regulate by extension of town road rights-of-way.
Through the process of the town adopting the ordinance, a number of residents spoke up during the first and second readings. 
Questions concerning the legality of the town’s ability to regulate piers and related structures arose after aspects with respect to riparian rights, land ownership and equal treatment became focal points for homeowners who wondered how it could impact their property value, especially the Hahns.
After the March 31 meeting where the town board introduced and proposed the pier ordinance, Rich Hahn told The Lakeland Times he was “pretty sure” he knew who was included in the 5% Hartzheim referenced when he told those in attendance he’s confident about 95% of property owners will be able to maintain a pier. 
According to the claim, the Hahns purchased their East Chicago residence in May of 2020, “including the riparian and flowage rights which appertain and belong to the property.” 
Fast-forward to early May of 2022, when the Hahns decided to place a single-section pier adjacent to their property in what they believed was within their riparian zone. 
The Hahns’ residence sits adjacent to a public boat landing of Lake Minocqua at the corner of East Chicago and East Park avenues.
Included in the new ordinance was the establishment of three public facility zones, one of which included the public boat landing near the Hahns.
Because the boat landing is in such close proximity to the Hahns’ riparian zone, the two zones encroach one another and the town ultimately ordered for the Hahns’ pier to be removed by May 23. If the Hahns refused, the town said, then town employees would be ordered to remove the pier at the Hahns’ expense. 
“The Removal Letter did not identify the statute, rule or ordinance the Hahns’ placement of the Pier purportedly violated, nor did the Removal Letter provide the Hahns the opportunity to challenge the Town’s demands as set forth in the Removal Letter,” the complaint states. “Rather, the Removal Letter erroneously implied that the Town maintained exclusive riparian rights to regulate the placement of piers adjacent to the Property.” 
By not issuing the Hahns any sort of citation, the claim argues, the town acted in opposition to its own general code of ordinances — under 1-15 — where it explains the town’s ability to enforce an ordinance violation is by way of issuing a citation. 
After receiving the removal letter, the Hahns wrote the town asking for a formal opinion and explanation as to the legal basis of the letter. The town, according to the complaint, “refused to respond.”
Under protest, the Hahns surrendered to the town’s demands and removed their pier by May 23. 
In the meantime, the town was making arrangements to enhance the public boat landing by expanding its public pier system. 
“On June 22, 2022, the Town’s Public Works Director (Mark Pertile) informed the Hahns that the town planned to expand the Facility (public boat landing),” the complaint states. “On information and belief, the Town’s planned expansion of the Facility will result in the Facility’s further encroachment into the Hahns’ riparian zone of interest.” 
In the town’s eyes, the Hahns’ riparian zone of interest doesn’t exist. As mentioned, the Hahns’ riparian zone has been determined by the town to be within one of three “public facility zones” — a term, the claim adds, isn’t defined within the ordinance. 
As a result, and according to the complaint, the town developed a list of properties along East Park Avenue, West Park Avenue and East Chicago Avenue in which it would require a permit application be submitted by homeowners to maintain placement of piers and related structures, as warranted by the new ordinance. 
Left off of that list was the Hahns. 
“On or about June 21, 2022, the Hahns contacted the Town Clerk (Roben Haggart) to request an explanation as to why they did not receive a licensing application for the placement of a pier adjacent to the Property,” the complaint states. “The Town Clerk explained that the Town Board unilaterally excluded the Property because of its proximity to a ‘public facility zone,’ the functional equivalent of a ‘public safety zone,’ as set forth in the Proposed Ordinance.”
Like the removal letter, the Hahns asked the town for explanation as to its legal basis in establishing the three “public facility zones,” as well as not being sent a licensing application for an opportunity to place a pier. But, the Hahns’ inquiry was to no avail. 
“Despite additional attempts by the Hahns to ascertain the bases for the development of the proposed ‘public facility zone,’ and the reason the Property was included in ‘public facility zone,’ the Town refused to provide further explanation,” the complaint states.
In conclusion, the notice of circumstances of claim and claim requests court rulings on a wide variety of claims and actions made or taken by the town, including that the Hahns are the riparian owners and exclusive users of the land abutting Lake Minocqua adjacent to their residence, that the town is not the owner of, and cannot control, the land associated with all or a portion of the Hahns’ riparian zone and that the town’s boat landing and planned expansion encroaches the Hahns’ riparian zone. 
The claim also requests judgment that by the town’s enforcement of the adopted pier ordinance, while being arbitrary and unreasonable, it is “violative of the Constitution, the statutes, and the laws of the State of Wisconsin.”

Additional comments
One question Rich Hahn still wants an answer to is who exactly is deciding who gets a pier permit application and who doesn’t. 
In an email to the Times, he said there is at least one example of a property owner who was in a “public facility zone” — like him — and received a pier permit application. 
With regard to all residents who received the application, Hahn wondered: “What are they supposed to do?”
“If they sign the pier permit they give up all rights against the town,” he said. “If they don’t sign the permit they risk having their pier removed by the town and being charged for that removal.”
Trevor Greene may be reached via email at trevorgreene@lakelandtimes.com.